Checking Out the Next Firefox
Posted by Harry McCracken
Sunday, March 19, 2006, 10:30 PM (PST)
Wanna try an early-but-intriguing browser upgrade? You're in luck: Head here, and you can download Bon Echo--or, as we'll eventually call it, Firefox 2.0. (In the real world, by the way, Bon Echo is a park in Ontario.)
News of this early version of Firefox 2 hit the Web today, but it doesn't seem to be an official release. In fact, Asa Dotzler of Mozilla says it isn't one, and he should know.
By the time I'd read Asa's blog posting, I'd already downloaded and installed the Mac OS X version of Bon Echo, which I'm using right now. There's nothing about it that instantly screams "massive makeover!" Dig in, though, and there's some new stuff, including a new History menu item that lets you do searches in Web pages you've visited in the recent past. (Am I the only person who tends to waste time recreating my tracks to find things I already located once?) I also notice some tweaks to the tab interface, including little X icons on the tabs for easy closing. (One reason to be cautious about the alpha: If your favorite Firefox extensions are anything like my favorite Firefox extensions, they aren't compatible with the new version yet.)
If you want more info on what's in store for Firefox 2, take a gander at this extremely detailed document, which is actually a wiki used by the Firefox development team. From my quick parsing of it, it looks like Firefox 2 will be more evolutionary than revolutionary...but there will be a fair amount of evolution.
When will the final version be available? All I know is that they're aiming for later this year. It seems entirely possible that it'll meet or beat the release of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7.
If so, that would mean that Mozilla will have released two meaningful upgrades to Firefox (1.5 and 2) in the time since Microsoft started making noises about finally updating its browser. IE may not be dead like a dinosaur, but its development schedule is still lumbering along like one. (IE 7 was announced back in February of last year.)
Anyhow, we're currently awash in early versions of next-generation browsers: The IE 7 beta 2 is also a free download--as is the Preview 2 version of Opera 9.
The conservative among us should stick with the shipping versions--for instance, I've had some trouble with sites and services that didn't seem to like the IE 7 beta (most recently AOL's In2TV). But if you've got a gambling streak, you can compare and contrast where Microsoft, Mozilla, and Opera think the browser is going.
Speaking of which: Which browser and version are you using--and why? (Today, incidentally, about 68 percent of PCWorld.com visitors were using IE 6, 21 percent used Firefox, and a tad under 6 percent used Opera. No other browser was used by as much as 1 percent of site visitors.)